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Easter exercises

My parents are strong believers in the idea of purposeful exercise. They couldn’t imagine working out in a gym, laboring on a treadmill with nothing accomplished at the end beyond sweating. No, for them, activity is critical – but it has to result in a tangible, quantifiable product.

And so it may come as no surprise that they left Manhattan in the early 70’s to raise their kids on a farm in Canada, where we were kept very busy herding cows, lifting milk crates, feeding pigs, fishing on the nearby ocean, and weeding our very large organic garden.

But as Manhattanites, my parents made sure that I read the New Yorker (we grew up with Calvin Trillin’s children), attended summer school in Paris and ski camp in Switzerland. We took a family vacation each winter to some tropical island, where I played with vacationing city kids.

But this strange combination of “country mouse, town mouse” occasionally produced some rather bizarre traditions – my favorite of which is the annual, December “Easter egg hunt.”

My parents would take us to a rather exclusive golf course on one of our vacation islands, sign up for a round in the late afternoon when most golfers were finishing up, then find us an empty bucket for golf balls. Then we’d walk off in the direction of the 9th hole, and my mom would tell us that there were golf ball “Easter eggs” hidden in the rough patches around the golf course, and that it was our job to fill up the bucket with as many balls as we could find. For young kids, I can tell you, such a challenging and large Easter egg hunt was really exciting.

So I searched fairly systematically through all the patches of rough, proudly announcing each new egg that I had uncovered: “Mom, I found one!” I’d beam, “and this one is bright orange!”

My younger sister wasn’t as successful at locating golf ball eggs. She tended to try to pick them off the fairway, where they were sitting targets. Of course my parents would have to reel her back in, explaining that the Easter eggs were only hidden in the deeper grass.

And we would spend hours and hours on our Easter egg hunts, until the sun set and the crickets drowned out the sound of the ocean waves. We often found an annoyed golf course crew waiting for us to return so they could close their pro-shop. My sister would hand them a bucket brimming with golf balls, saying “we found all these Easter eggs!” And the cuteness of her innocent glee would melt their annoyance as they put the bucket behind the counter, eyeing my parents suspiciously.

But those were good times – where exercise was effortless and fun. Where a common goal drove an entire family to activity, and kids maintained interest in something beyond the TV set.

Now as the real Easter approaches, I imagine what it would be like to return to my childhood activities at a local golf course. I suspect that my physician colleagues would frown upon me collecting stray golf balls at their respective courses. But to tell you the truth, I think that would be more fun than actually playing a round, don’t you?

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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